Part III

Actual Hostilities Begin.

       Abraham Lincoln, inaugurated President of the United States on March 4th, soon adopted the war policy which had been initiated by the concentration of troops by Major Anderson at Fort Sumter in December, 1860, the ordering of the Star of the West to Charleston harbor in January, 1861, with troops, arms and supplies, and the summons of several ships of the distant squadrons to steam homeward. The policy most practicable for immediate hostilities as became apparent to President Lincoln's advisers, was an invasion of the Confederacy by way of the ocean and the gulf. The first objective point, Charleston; the first State to be overthrown and brought to terms, South Carolina; the first movement, reinforcement of Fort Sumter, peaceably if permitted, otherwise by force. This plan was maturely considered during March, while the Confederate leaders were held in suspense with the hope of peace. which caused them to wait for the action of the Federal administration. At length, on the 8th of April, South Carolina was officially informed that "an attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter, peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must." Eight armed vessels with soldiers aboard had been sent to sustain the notification, and moved so quickly on this expedition that only an unexpected storm at sea caused delay enough for the Confederate authorities to successfully meet the issue.
       The Confederate States objected to this movement of the Federal authorities, because the reinforcement was invasion by the use of physical force; because it asserted the claim of the United States to sovereignty over South Carolina, which was in dispute; and because the supply of the garrison in Fort Sumter with necessary rations was not the object nor the end of the expedition. The purpose was to secure Fort Sumter, to close the port with the warships, to reduce Charleston by bombardment if necessary, to land troops from transports, and thus crush the rebellion where it was supposed to have begun by overthrowing South Carolina. This admirable scheme was frustrated by the necessary, prompt and successful attack on Fort Sumter after General Beauregard had exchanged the usual formalities with Major Anderson. At 4:30 o'clock on the morning of April 12th, the Confederates opened fire on the fort, which was soon returned. The bombardment which followed for thirty-three hours at last made the fort untenable, and Anderson on the 14th surrendered his stronghold to the Confederacy, and on the 15th evacuated the position with honors.
       It has been observed that at the time of the sailing of the United States fleet toward Charleston under orders to sustain Fort Sumter, neither of the two countries had armies and fleets in readiness for the impending war. The Confederate government, having had only two months of political existence, was yet scarcely in communication with the seven States which had given it the right to a place among nations. Its armies were a few thousand troops hastily gathered together from the seceded States, and its navy had only a name with an abundance of splendid officers yearning for ships. Seven great States of the South, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, still remained in the Federal union. On the Northern side the regular army had not been made available and the volunteers were yet chiefly with their States. But the battle over the control of Charleston harbor, although fought by artillery and without the loss of life, was followed by immediate and great preparations for the portentous American conflict.
       On the day after the plan of reinforcement failed, President Lincoln issued his proclamation calling for 75,000 troops, to be immediately armed and equipped for active service. President Davis construed this to be a declaration of war, and called for 100,000 troops to support the independence of the South. The governors of six of the seven States which had not seceded refused to obey the requisitions upon them for troops, because the proclamation established coercion as the policy of the administration, and they would not participate in the subjugation of the Southern States. The governor of Maryland merely asked for delay. The "war governors" of the Northern States responded so earnestly to the first call of President Lincoln that thousands of men who had been held in preparation for this event began to pour toward Washington.
       Quickly following the first proclamation, President Lincoln on the 19th of April proclaimed the first blockade of Southern ports from South Carolina to Texas, which was afterward extended, April 27th, to the ports of North Carolina and Virginia. Another proclamation, May 4th, called for about 40,000 volunteers for three years, and ordered an increase of the regular army by 22,000 soldiers, and of the navy by 18,000 seamen. Orders were also issued to seize all dispatches in telegraph offices; to authorize martial law with suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in certain places; to prohibit sales of munitions of war to Southern States--these and other minor measures showing that actual war was at hand. Under this policy Washington city became a military camp, and the frowning visage of war was on all the country.
       The unmistakable import of all these coercive measures caused the secession of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas; at the same time involving Missouri and Kentucky in civil war, and causing the first blood of the great struggle to flow April 19th on the soil of Maryland. Virginia seceding took possession of Harper's Ferry and the Gosport navy yard, thus acquiring a large amount of machinery and munitions, but found Fortress Monroe so well garrisoned as to make its seizure impossible. Virginia troops were rapidly organized by Maj. Gen. R. E. Lee, and with such equipments as could be secured were posted at Harper's Perry, Norfolk and other points. The States seceding with her also occupied all forts and arsenals they could seize, and began in earnest the organization of military commands for the use of the Confederacy.
       North Carolina was as loath as Virginia to leave the Union, conservatively avoiding all acts that would place the State in antagonism to the general government. Certain forts were seized by a premature popular attack; but the governor caused them to be restored at once. Nothing warlike occurred until the attempt was made by the reinforcement plan to put South Carolina in peril, and the demand on the State to furnish its quota of troops to put down the so-called rebellion. The governor declined to obey the requisition and took the forts of the State, the arsenal at Fayetteville and the mint at Charlotte into his possession. The State seceded May 20th, and within a month raised a force of over 20,000 volunteers.
       The great middle State of Tennessee was so indispensable to the Confederacy that its tardy action produced alarm. The governor urged immediate secession after the fight over Sumter and President Lincoln's call on Tennessee for troops, but the State was hampered by the objection to secession which controlled almost the entire eastern section. Prominent leaders of different parties joined the governor, and at length, in May, the State agreed to enter into an alliance or league with the Confederate government, placing under Confederate control the entire military force, and the question of secession was submitted to the people. This temporary action resulted in the legal secession of this invaluable State and its incorporation with the body of the Confederacy. The governor being authorized by the legislature rapidly organized a large provisional army. Batteries were established on the Mississippi river, several thousand troops were concentrated in west Tennessee, and others were posted in east Tennessee and in camps at other places. Within two months after the passage of the act of May 6th, the energetic governor had put 30,000 troops in the field. The State went at a bound to the front line of its associates.

This Page last updated 02/10/02